cover image Crooked Seeds

Crooked Seeds

Karen Jennings. Hogarth, $28 (240p) ISBN 978-0-593-59712-5

A white South African family’s ties to 1990s pro-apartheid terrorism resurface in the bleak and provocative latest from Jennings (An Island). Deirdre, 53, lost her leg as a teen when her brother, who later died from a drug overdose, accidentally set off a bomb while preparing for a plot to discourage Black citizens from voting in the 1994 general election. She lives now in a senior living facility, her family’s house having been repossessed by the government. Determined to be seen as a victim and a “cripple,” she drinks heavily, cadges cigarettes from staffers, asks constant favors of the young Black mother across the hall, calls her adopted Black daughter in London seeking money, and ignores her own mother, who lives across the street. When the police approach her with recently found evidence of human remains buried on the grounds of their former home, she spirals deeper into despair and alienates everyone around her. The mystery of whose remains may have been found is only partially solved, and the novel’s open-ended conclusion leaves readers with much to ponder about South Africa’s painful history and the stories Deirdre has told herself to survive. There are no easy answers in Jennings’s knotty narrative. Agent: Anna Stein, CAA. (Apr.)